SMDHU updates businesses and workplace protection measures

The update is in response to the fourth wave of COVID-19

News release – from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

Simcoe Muskoka and the province have entered a fourth wave of COVID-19, with most cases caused by the contagious Delta variant. In response to rising transmission rates, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is reissuing its letter of instruction to businesses and organizations within the municipalities serviced by SMDHU, aligned with provincial legislative requirements already in place. The Medical Officer of Health (MOH) is also strongly recommending that all local employers implement a COVID-19 workplace vaccination policy.

The amended letter of instruction replaces the one from March 11, 2021, that put in place additional public health measures under Ontario’s Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. The health unit is issuing this revised letter of instruction under the Reopening Ontario Act requiring businesses and organizations to take additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Along with other public health measures such as physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene, as of September 6, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. the letter of instruction now includes the following new provisions and amendments for business and organizations in Simcoe Muskoka:

  • Instructions apply to all individuals and do not differentiate between fully vaccinated, partially or non-vaccinated persons.  
  • Appointing a compliance officer for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan is no longer required.
  • Recommends the implementation of remote operations by providing goods by mail or other delivery forms, making goods available for pick-up and providing services online, by telephone or other remote means.  
  • Requires face coverings and physical distancing; however, the requirement of plexiglass dividers is not referenced.
  • Certain businesses must collect and keep contact information for 30 days of all staff and patrons. 
  • Actively screen all employees.
  • Provide eye protection to individuals driving with others in a vehicle associated with work if the travel time is 15 minutes or longer.
  • Provide greater clarity on HVAC requirements with the overall goal of HVAC system and unit optimization.

“Employers are required to maintain a safe work environment for their workers. While enhanced protection measures are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the most effective method of protection is vaccination. It is highly effective at reducing virus spread and protecting against serious illness,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health. “As such, a COVID-19 vaccination policy will help safeguard the work environment for employees and clients and will help us to achieve higher overall vaccination in the population.”

The considerations and components that all local employers are recommended to include in their COVID-19 vaccination policy are outlined in a new resource.

Simcoe Muskoka has seen a significant increase in the past weeks in the number of COVID-19 infections, going from an average of three new cases daily at the beginning of July to 20 cases per day as of August 30, 2021.

Based on provincial numbers reported the week of August 22, 2021, 69 per cent of new COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated or those partially vaccinated with only one dose. COVID-19 vaccinations are still available to eligible residents through participating pharmacies, primary care providers, and pop-up clinics. Unvaccinated individuals in Simcoe Muskoka are 13 times more likely than vaccinated individuals to contract COVID-19.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccines and current public health safety measures and requirements, visit smdhu.org/covid19.